MSU Game Last Second Rule Question

Submitted by JohnnyV123 on October 31st, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Saw nothing about this and sorry if it's somewhere in the snowflakes threads but I was wondering about the onsides kick at the end of the MSU game.

Basic question is....since there was only one second left on the clock did UM even have to put anyone out there to try and grab the kick? I thought at least one second had to run off the clock if anyone touched the ball so if MSU recovered it with no Michigan people trying to grab it game over anyways.

I also thought you could not advance the ball so if MSU recovered it anywhere except the endzone it would not have mattered.....and I guess follow up can you score a TD on an "onsides" kickoff that you recover in the opposing team's endzone? Could we have put only Peppers and Lewis on the field to down it  in case it got that far and end the game?



October 31st, 2016 at 11:04 AM ^

I believe if they catch it (past ten yards) or something similar it's possible for no time to run off, which would have left one second for a Hail Mary + an untimed PAT, which makes the going-for-2 call even more bewildering.

panthera leo fututio

October 31st, 2016 at 12:13 PM ^

By definition, isn't it impossible for possession to be instantaneous? Think about what constitutes possession for a receiver -- no matter how securely he has his hands on the ball, if he's hit immediately and loses it, possession is deemed to have never been established. So there must be some time between when first touch happens and when possession happens, right?

Pepto Bismol

October 31st, 2016 at 12:19 PM ^

I see what you're saying, but it's not the same.  If, on the actual MSU onside kick that actually happened in the game, the MSU guy caught that ball clean while running down the sideline, they will blow the whistle to kill the play and return the ball to where he caught it.  Which means possession was given the instance he caught it, which marks both the start and stop of the play.  No time would elapse.

This really isn't that rare and I'm surprised there is so much debate.  This happens all the time. 


October 31st, 2016 at 11:11 AM ^

it would be something remarkable if a team could recover an on-side clock so cleanly that it wouldn't use a second.  With Spartan Bob, you never know though I guess.  I think the only way that State could had a play was with a recovery and then like a dead ball penalty against Michigan after the recovery. 

Pepto Bismol

October 31st, 2016 at 11:18 AM ^

I always understood that the ball is dead once the kicking team recovers.  If no Michigan player touches it to start the clock, then it's possible to recover without time elapsing.

I could most definitely be wrong here.  Just asking if this is "rulebook fact", or if you're offering your best guess?


October 31st, 2016 at 1:02 PM ^

I think the missing piece here is that the clock starts as soon as *anyone* touches the ball.  So you could argue that the time between the touch and the possession is less than a second but there would have to be some amount of elapsed time anytime a kickoff is fielded by any player in the field of play.


October 31st, 2016 at 11:06 AM ^

If it's recovered in the endzone, it can be a touchdown.

However, if it's recovered anywhere else on the field, it cannot be advanced. The ball would be dead wherever MSU recovered it.

Realistically, the only chance they would have had is if a Michigan player recovered the kick, tried to return it, fumbled, and allowed MSU to pick it up and score a touchdown. A straight-up onside recovery wouldn't have allowed them any time to run an offensive play.


October 31st, 2016 at 11:20 AM ^

The clock starts when touched, but it stops when recovered by the kicking team.  So if the kicking team secures the ball in a single motion, the clock starts and stops simultaneously, so no time comes off the clock.

The closest I could come to a concrete example from the NCAA rulebook,  though, is Approved Ruling 3-3-2-VII:

"Team A kicks off to start the game and the kick receiver (a) makes a fair catch; (b) first touches the ball when he recovers it with his knee on the ground. RULING: (a) and (b) No time runs off the clock. Team B will have first and 10 with the game clock reading 15:00."

So it is certainly possible to have a kick touched inbounds and have no time come off the clock.

Pepto Bismol

October 31st, 2016 at 11:43 AM ^

His knee doesn't have to be down.  The play is dead once he possesses the ball.

And the actual onside kick they ran had a VERY good chance of MSU catching it clean without it being touched.  It floated right over Butt's head and a Spartan was right there. 

It is a very realistic possibility. 


October 31st, 2016 at 2:19 PM ^

See below, under NCAA Rule 6, ball is dead as soon as it hits the ground in the endzone and it belongs to Michigan.  That's why you'll see kick returners not even bother to pick up or cover the ball when it reaches the endzone and they have no intention of returning it.


October 31st, 2016 at 2:16 PM ^

Under NCAA Rule 6, article 7.a, the kicking team can't recover the ball in the endzone unless the receiving team touches it first.  So, as long as Michigan didn't touch the kick, the ball is dead as soon as it touches the ground in the endzone, and it's Michigan's ball.


October 31st, 2016 at 4:06 PM ^

Once safely up by 9, Dantonio deserved the follow sequence to unfold on the onside kick:

  • Michigan places a member of the kick return team deep - around the 10 or 15 yard line
  • Everyone else is instructed to try to field the onside kick cleanly, instead of going to the ground
  • Then, whoever fields the kick tosses the ball back to the man waiting deep
  • The deep player catches or corrals the ball, trots back into the end zone, and places the ball on the ground.  
  • The entire recovery team then stands with their arms folded, allowing MSU to fall on the ball for a TD.
  • On the ensuing 2-point conversion Michigan assumes the same pose, allowing MSU walk in a 2 point coversion
  • MSU loses 32-31


October 31st, 2016 at 11:34 AM ^

We had to have someone there in case they kicked it in the endzone (and it wasn't blown dead) to make sure they didn't recover.  

Otherwise, the only way to lose would be to actually possess the ball and fumble it, and have it be recovered by MSU and returned for a TD.  Just touching the ball does not constitute possession, so a muff wouldn't matter.

EDIT: Or, if they could get a clean recovery with no touching by a Michigan player, they could try a Hail Mary.


October 31st, 2016 at 11:08 AM ^

Well, I don't know what benefit you get from not having all 11 guys out there.

The way I read the rulebook, if MSU recovered it without anyone from Michigan touching it, then the clock wouldn't run and Sparty would actually have a play to run with one second.  The ball is immediately dead when it's recovered by the kicking team, and the clock starts only when the ball is touched by a player on the receiving team.

If so, the smartest thing probably would've been for some of our receiving guys to charge forward and touch the ball before it crossed ten yards, thus starting the clock before MSU is allowed to recover it.  Normally you wouldn't want to do that because touching it means it's anyone's ball, but when you just need to run one second, you want to do whatever it takes to run the clock.

Worked out better this way though so we could get a Jabrill Peppers backflip to put the last exclamation point on the game.


October 31st, 2016 at 11:44 AM ^

The kicking team can only recover the ball; they can't advance the ball. So, my understanding of that rule is that with only 1 second on the game clock, any touch by a Michigan player causes the last tick to come off; the game is immediately over, and even if MSU recovers a muffed kick-off, they can't run a play because no time is left.